Editor's Pick of New Releases, January 2010
This time last year, many a critic's year-end number one LP was in stores. Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion overturned the odds stacked against it by being a January release that actually mattered several months later. That it was Really Very Good helped, obviously, but it's rare indeed when a release from the first month of the year maintains its support for the duration. Attentions simply weren't going anywhere else.
But could lightning strike twice, and for the same label? With a plethora of phenomenal reviews, These New Puritans' Hidden is already being pencilled into the best-of-2010 equation. An arresting amalgam of direct rock, art pop and classical influences, it's a mesmerising affair that's rightly receiving the acclaim it deserves. Domino certainly knows how to pick them - they're handling Hidden worldwide, with Angular doing the business domestically.
January saw several more brilliant releases. There's not room for all of them here, but hopefully the below serves as a cross-section that ably represents just how much talent is out there, ready for your investment of both time and pennies (artists need to pay bills, too). From Laura Veirs' lauded folk-rock, to Four Tet's delicious dancefloor artistry, via Beach House's sublime shoegazing and the sunny Afro-beat of Fool's Gold, it's been a great month.
These New Puritans - Hidden
(Angular/Domino, released 18 January)
Recommended by Marc Riley
"Their second album arrives, and impressively it turns out that vocalist Jack Barnett's blue-sky dreaming is actually a pretty accurate description of Hidden - heavily beat-driven, almost entirely absent of guitars, and laced with large amounts of elaborately arranged woodwind and brass. The mood is pagan, hallucinogenic, severe."
Beach House - Teen Dream
(Bella Union, released 25 January)
6 Music Album of the Day
"Teen Dream almost entirely eschews the junkshop drum machine-meets-indie chanteuse fragility of the duo's eponymous 2006 debut and its even drowsier follow-up in favour of vigorous, hymnal pop essays that gleam like polished chrome. The most unmistakeable sound here is that of a band truly finding its own voice. In so doing, they may just have minted the new decade's first essential album."
Fool's Gold - Fool's Gold
(I Am Sound, released 25 January)
Recommended by Radcliffe & Maconie
"Fool's Gold stretch Western pop templates out into African shapes, and this debut album belies their name by being a genuine gem. From the sunny six-string licks that open Surprise Hotel through Nadine's joyous horns and Momentary Shelter's percussive swansong, they feel like a welcome breath of fresh air - even gusting from your car stereo in a suburban traffic jam."
Four Tet - There Is Love In You
(Domino, released 25 January)
Recommended by Gilles Peterson
"Hebden's tracks are aural mosaics, painstakingly compiled to work on several levels. The skipping two-step of Love Cry, for example, may appear relatively traditional; but take a closer listen and there are intricacies aplenty, including an underlying synth whirr that sounds oddly reminiscent of the noise Fred Flintstone's legs used to make when he carried the car to work."
"Named after a variety of peach, Veirs' seventh album is aptly named, its mood erring toward the ripe and summery, the stripped-back arrangements leaving plenty of spaces for her crystalline-as-mountain-air vocals to swoop and glide. It sounds like both an affirmation and a mission statement and encourages the happy thought that her best may still be to come."
"This fourth album sounds big - polished, even - and helpfully, that's a quality that suits them rather well. The Betrayed is not an underachieving record. It sweats hunger and ambition, and while it's not flawless, it's a success on their own, aggressively populist terms: 11 songs of big riffs and earworm choruses that reach over the moshpit to the stands beyond."
Pat Metheny - Orchestrion
(Nonesuch, released 25 January)
Recommended by Jazz on 3
"Although it's played by machines, this music sounds strikingly human. There are heartbeats in the percussion, voices humming in the strings, and wordless songs from blown bottles. It's Metheny to the core. After all, he's composed, played and improvised every sound that you hear, and he's come close to his aim of making this album more than a curiosity."
Vampire Weekend - Contra
(XL, released 11 January)
6 Music Album of the Day
"Prior to release, frontman Ezra Koenig told the press that Contra is about "retro gaming and Nicaraguan politics," and it may well be - his poetic lyrics can be hard to decipher. What we do know, however, is that this latest offering ushers in an entirely new age for Vampire Weekend: one of wisdom, grace, subtlety and for the first time a really strong sense of identity."
"There was some pressure on Delphic to deliver, and they have. From a palette of familiar reference points, they've created a fresh, vital sound that could prove to be the basis of an impressive career. Barney and Hooky will exchange knowing glances when they hear it, but Acolyte might just be the first great album of 2010."
"The end results here are as unsettling as they are uplifting. Although her last album sold half a million worldwide, Charlotte Gainsbourg remains very much a delicacy in the UK. The deeply moving and organic IRM deserves a wider audience, as it is one of 2010's first great examples of accomplished, adult pop."